I started crying at the breakfast table Sunday morning. Talking to the boys about September 11th on the tenth year anniversary of the attacks seemed like the right thing to do. But I was surprised to find myself get so emotional when describing it to them. Until this past year, we had intentionally not talked to them about that day, thinking that it might be too upsetting for them and scare them about flying or when Daddy goes on trips. Recently, though, they’d seen a picture in a book or magazine that prompted some questions so we provided some very basic answers to generally explain what had happened. Friday at school someone gave an account of 9/11 over the loudspeakers during the morning announcements and the boys came home with questions about Osama Bin Laden and why people could hate our country so much that they would want to kill us and themselves.
There are many, many people to whom this day hits home much more deeply than us. Thankfully, our family did not lose anyone that we knew well, but my wife and I were both in midtown Manhattan that sunny morning. We were newlyweds, working together in New York, just recently having moved out of the city to the commuter train suburbs of New Jersey. Despite the relative two mile distance from the World Trade Center, we were close enough to be scarred. Even now, we both still quickly look away when footage of the planes crashing comes on the news.
When disaster struck, my wife was in the office while I was at a sales meeting, surprisingly close by in a hotel across the street. I remember someone came in and interrupted our meeting to tell us that a plane had crashed into one of the towers. Both of us separately had the same initial reaction that it must be a small private plane and likely not a big deal. Our meeting took a break and we walked down to the lobby bar to see early details unfolding on the television screen. The buzz quickly started to spread that things were indeed serious and we ran across the street to the office.
I was able to reach my wife quickly and we spent some time together with colleagues huddled around a small office TV and trying to listen to what was happening. We spoke to a few friends and family that were able to get through to my cell phone which was still something of a novelty. Later, we spent a few hours at a friend’s house a few blocks from the office and tried to plan how we’d cross the Hudson and get home. Amazingly, we were able to board a train late in the afternoon and get safely home, the billowing smoke from Ground Zero a haunting image out our train window as we crawled westward. We spent the next few days in our apartment, the office closed, everyone still dazed by the events and wondering what was to come of our world whose skies truly seemed to be falling.
It’s strange to realize that ten years have passed, that our children had not yet been born, and that they will only see the attacks as a point in history like I might think of the Vietnam War. The boys won’t ever know New York as it was when their mother and I met in early fall and our family’s story was born.
I was reminded recently of an email that I sent that week, long before the days of a Facebook or Twitter. It stated simply that “God is in control.” Surely, this was a truth both comforting yet at the same time hard to fathom. I suppose it still is.
When we try to explain to our kids how something so terrible could happen or why there are earthquakes and hurricanes and disease that destroy and hurt, there aren’t always a lot of reasons to give but that simple phrase. As parents, we’re left to pray that our children stay safe, that they grow up to be strong and to love each other. We all must remember that even when things spin beyond our grasp, when towers crumble and our plans fall apart, we are still in His hands.